The Space of Hope

Communication & the Human Bond 

On the Question of Hope

In September, 2008, the question of hope, of what it is and why we need it, was coming to political prominence, due to an election campaign and a collective demand for significant change in the direction of US policy, on a number of fronts. As a result, the very idea of hope came under political attack. Political operatives that sought to ridicule the idea of a “change candidate” who could bring hope to the American people sought to make it appear that hope was a soft virtue, a wishy-washy ethereal promise, something one seeks only if one has no intent to act.

It seemed to me this was both dishonest and also dangerous, because hope does not work like that at all, and because there had been a very responsible engagement with the topic, which held some promise in terms of waking a population that had not thought of being involved in shaping its own destiny. So, I sought to write something solid, something viable and lasting, about hope, about the nature of optimism and how closely linked the quality of imagination is to our ability to conceive of, work for and see through to completion, meaningful improvements to the human condition.

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Writing & Naming: the Medicine of Acquiring Knowledge

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Through the work of writing, I have learned first and foremost that nothing is what it tells us it is, because there is always another level, another way to play at naming, with reality, to bend untruths to be more true, as medicine, as savior, as demon filtered for taste, as a ritual mark of remembrance of tensile perceptual realities, disputed, fought for and reclaimed. There is a line after which language becomes less a tool for understanding and more a mechanism for undermining it, but that line is constantly in motion, and in language, as in physics, we now understand “reversibility generally does not exist”, as per Poincaré.

Writing teaches a person about language, in a very deep and sensory way, but language also teaches a person about existence in the human sense, existing as a human being, as an individual who is capable of not only perceiving and manifesting, but also articulating an identity. That, to some extent, is our most recurring, most insistent, most necessary and yet problematic, reason for engaging in serious explorations of language usage: how to articulate the untestable reality that is the human self.

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Does Anyone Know What Capitalism Is?

Is capitalism legalized greed or an organic model of resource allocation?

Capitalism is “survival of the fittest”… capitalism is rooted in the idea of merit; everyone should be compensated according to his or her contribution (to the common good?)… capitalism is about the movement of capital; the more it moves, the richer everyone gets… capitalism is an upgraded feudalism, where the capitalist is an overseer of an abstract terrain made up of investments, not of arable lands… capitalism is democracy; the free spirit of an open society requires capitalism to support the liberties of individual citizens, and protect against government overreach… capitalism is virtue… or, capitalism is the absence of virtue…

These are just a few commonly held ideas, not all compatible with one another or with reality as we know it. Depending on point of view, we find ourselves favoring or opposing some aspect of something we call capitalism, with sometimes radical swings in the underlying reasoning of our political philosophy — we being Americans, generally. And across the world, the same questions come up time and again: one nation’s democratic marketplace, rising tide that lifts all boats, is seen from a poorer nation as an upgraded feudalism, a new age of empire.

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Internet Access Must Be a Human Right

Access to the internet must be a basic human right, across the globe, for a number of reasons. First of all, legitimate, transparent democratic processes of government require in today’s world that information flow freely and that citizens be empowered to share information and to find information, according to their choices and their needs.

Socio-economic barriers to such free flow of information are just another kind of information control that establishes dangerous demographic stratification into privileged and marginalized groups. Governments across the world are using web filtering technologies to censor the information available to their citizens and crack down on dissent.

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The Evils of the Purge: Crushing Dissent & the False Promise of Finality

The Khmer Rouge sought to establish a red Khmer empire in Cambodia, with some ambitions of expansion beyond the nation’s borders, by stamping out any human life or mind that varied from the project, as narrowly conceived by Pol Pot and his murderous regime. The “killing fields” that ensued, with the mass slaughter of an estimated 1.5 million people, were an attempt to establish a new break in time, the time before and the time after the purification —as the regime proposed— of all Cambodia.

Beyond Utopia, it was a lust to fashion a paradise built on millions of purgatories. It was the paradox of a violent Heaven, a wisdom of intolerance, a corrupt purity, an abstraction drowned in the blood of innocents. In order to establish absolute power, either for themselves or their ideology, a purge was undertaken that would attempt to eliminate nearly all people of learning, leaving by one count only 4 highly trained Cambodian legal minds remaining.

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Empathy is Not Prejudice

EMPATHY IS NOT PREJUDICE: it is the ability to imagine the point of view of the other. Without this ability to engage in thoughtful outreach, beyond one’s own personal realm of experience, and empathize with the human situation of the other, no jurist can begin to understand the human meaning of the arguments made in their court, and objectivity remains wholly beyond their reach. Empathy is not sympathy.

Sympathy means feeling what the other feels, experiencing grief at the other’s grief, loyalty in kind with the other’s loyalties, taking sides; empathy is the ability to comprehend the meaning of another’s experiences, and does not entail adopting or sharing the other’s views. Empathy for a judge means the ability to see how both parties arguing before a court could arrive there based on legitimate human experiences and assertions about the protections and provisions of the law.

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The Creative Approach: The ‘Other’ Evolving

The creative approach to language, the expressive urge, the impact of a whim to let the unseen meaning come to be seen, come into the light: to write creatively, one must know how to think without the limiting slant of convention, and this means to recognize, to fashion, to come upon new forms and counterweights, new allowances, and to effect bold innovations in the way words and sounds and currents of meaning are matched and provided for…

To think about achieving new cosmologies, to think outside the geometry of the known (or presumed) universe, we must first come to the understanding that rule-based thinking is designed to leave us with thoughts that re-affirm the underlying preconceptions, the rules…

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Everyone is Alone, Sometimes

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Everyone is alone in the world, separate from all else, at all times, and never truly capable of saying with certainty that things could be otherwise. This is both a fundamental existential problem and a flawed way of looking at human relationships. It is true: each individual is separated from the world by his or her perceptions, but: there is a reason why human beings cooperate, why we integrate ourselves into larger social fabrics, why we maintain relationships from birth to death, or for as long as possible.

We are “social beings” is a common way of saying it. The human being is the “grammatical ape”, a talkative species that uses codified sounds to create and transmit meaning and to build a community of individuals, ideas and voices, in which the individual can benefit from having connections as well. The “human” is an idea, not a fact, another way of looking at things, and so we should not even go as far as to say that the individual is apart from everything else, as we cannot define totally what it is that makes us a group in which that is true, aside from DNA and appearances.

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Resilient Complexity versus Exposure to Entropy

All systems fail, all organized interactions are vulnerable to entropy, ashes to ashes, dust to dust. And at best, we are but stardust, a beautiful yet haunting explanation of our origins. Infused with light. Doomed to shadow. Whatever your spiritual beliefs, in the mortal physical realm, entropy is always interfering. The intellect often uses convenient conceptualizations to feel it is better understood or more secure, more real and lasting, than it is.

Remember: the only constant is change, so to oversimplify is to willfully strip ourselves of needed understanding, the power of intellect that can do the best work against entropy. To paint in broad strokes an entire universe of experience to exist only in dualities of black and white, up and down, matter and void, is to confuse simplicity with clarity, at our peril. While the best explanation is usually the simplest one, the truth is almost always more complex than we can perceive.

So, we are left to navigate a universe of traumas and disappointments we cannot just dismiss as signs of the wrong thing happening or the other side gaining temporary control over our otherwise pure and decent environs. Darkness and light are lies in that they are not so diametrically opposed as they pretend; there are better options for understanding what they mean. As R. Buckminster Fuller has written: “We have relationships, not space”.

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